ComScore, has just released some interesting data on how India's digital citizens are spending time online. The report states that social networking accounted for 25.2 percent of all time spent online in June. The biggest beneficiary of the social networking boom in India is, of course, Facebook.
The report also states that Indians spend nearly 1 out 4 minutes online indulging in social networking, amounting to a significant 25.2 percent of total time spent online.
Other content that occupies a significant amount of time for Indians is
• Entertainment sites - accounting for 10 percent of minutes (up 1.2 percentage points from the previous year).
• Portals accounted for 8.8 percent of total minutes.
• Time spent on Retail sites grew 0.5 points in the past year to a total of 2.0 percent of total minutes.
So which are the top used sites by Indians?
Google and other sites run by the search-engine ranked as the top destination in June 2012 reaching nearly 95 percent of the online population, or roughly 57.8 million people aged 15 and older
Facebook came in second followed with 50.9 million visitors (83.4 percent reach),
Yahoo! Sites (65.5 percent reach) and Microsoft Sites (48.1 percent reach) are next on the list.
So what does this web survey reveal about India?
The first is the tremendous rise of social networking among Indians. The second is of course the rise of Facebook. All of this is particularly noteworthy data, coming as it does at a time when the government is blaming social media aiding in the spread of rumours against North-eastern people, which led to a mass exodus of these people from various South Indian cities.
The government has alleged that Facebook, YouTube, etc were used to upload inflammatory content that led to the mass hysteria. The latest exodus is also being used by the government to bolster its argument that social networking sites ought to pre-screen content before it is uploaded.
Facebook and YouTube have added that the content was uploaded from Pakistan and have admitted that it was indeed incendiary in nature.
There's no doubt that censorship of the web will now become a hotly contested issue with the government using the North-east as a classic example of how social media was misused.
But the larger question is that whether Indians who are evidently addicted to social networking would be okay with their online rights being curbed. Most would be uncomfortable with any sort of censorship. As far as users are concerned, the government seems to be displaying a blithe ignorance of how effective and useful social media can be.
In case of bomb attacks and accidents, people very often turn to social media such as Twitter or Facebook, to get more information or even reach out to those who have been affected. In July 2011 in Mumbai for instance, the Indian Twitter community took it upon themselves to offer rides and other assistance to those stranded as a result of a series of bomb explosions in the city.
Social media has also become a very effective tool of criticising the government.
For India's online citizens, who are only over a 100 million or so in number, the battles are going to get tougher with the government arguing for more control. There's no doubt that as far as social media concerned nobody is willing to budge an inch, neither the users nor the government.